Stephen William Hawking (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018) was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who, at the time of his death, was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. Between 1979 and 2009, he was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, widely viewed as one of the most prestigious academic posts in the world.
Hawking was born in Oxford into a family of physicians. In October 1959, at the age of 17, he began his university education at University College, Oxford, where he received a first-class BA degree in physics. In October 1962, he began his graduate work at Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge where, in March 1966, he obtained his PhD degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, specializing in general relativity and cosmology. In 1963, at age 21, Hawking was diagnosed with an early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease that gradually, over decades, paralysed him. After the loss of his speech, he communicated through a speech-generating device initially through use of a handheld switch, and eventually by using a single cheek muscle.
Hawking’s scientific works included a collaboration with Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes emit radiation, often called Hawking radiation. Initially, hawking radiation was controversial. By the late 1970s and following the publication of further research, the discovery was widely accepted as a major breakthrough in theoretical physics. Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
Hawking achieved commercial success with several works of popular science in which he discussed his theories and cosmology in general. His book A Brief History of Time appeared on the Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks. Hawking was a Fellow of the Royal Society, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2002, Hawking was ranked number 25 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. He died in 2018 at the age of 76, after living with motor neurone disease for more than 50 years.
Hawking was born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford to Frank and Isobel Eileen Hawking (née Walker). Hawking’s mother was born into a family of doctors in Glasgow, Scotland. His wealthy paternal great-grandfather, from Yorkshire, over-extended himself buying farm land and then went bankrupt in the great agricultural depression during the early 20th century. His paternal great-grandmother saved the family from financial ruin by opening a school in their home. Despite their families’ financial constraints, both parents attended the University of Oxford, where Frank read medicine and Isobel read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Isobel worked as a secretary for a medical research institute, and Frank was a medical researcher. Hawking had two younger sisters, Philippa and Mary, and an adopted brother, Edward Frank David (1955–2003).
In 1950, when Hawking’s father became head of the division of parasitology at the National Institute for Medical Research, the family moved to St Albans, Hertfordshire. In St Albans, the family was considered highly intelligent and somewhat eccentric; meals were often spent with each person silently reading a book. They lived a frugal existence in a large, cluttered, and poorly maintained house and travelled in a converted London taxicab. During one of Hawking’s father’s frequent absences working in Africa, the rest of the family spent four months in Mallorca visiting his mother’s friend Beryl and her husband, the poet Robert Graves.
Primary and secondary school years
Hawking began his schooling at the Byron House School in Highgate, London. He later blamed its “progressive methods” for his failure to learn to read while at the school. In St Albans, the eight-year-old Hawking attended St Albans High School for Girls for a few months. At that time, younger boys could attend one of the houses.
Hawking attended two private (i.e. fee-paying) schools, first Radlett School and from September 1952, St Albans School, Hertfordshire, after passing the eleven-plus a year early. The family placed a high value on education. Hawking’s father wanted his son to attend Westminster School, but the 13-year-old Hawking was ill on the day of the scholarship examination. His family could not afford the school fees without the financial aid of a scholarship, so Hawking remained at St Albans. A positive consequence was that Hawking remained close to a group of friends with whom he enjoyed board games, the manufacture of fireworks, model aeroplanes and boats, and long discussions about Christianity and extrasensory perception. From 1958 on, with the help of the mathematics teacher Dikran Tahta, they built a computer from clock parts, an old telephone switchboard and other recycled components.
Although known at school as “Einstein”, Hawking was not initially successful academically. With time, he began to show considerable aptitude for scientific subjects and, inspired by Tahta, decided to read mathematics at university. Hawking’s father advised him to study medicine, concerned that there were few jobs for mathematics graduates. He also wanted his son to attend University College, Oxford, his own alma mater. As it was not possible to read mathematics there at the time, Hawking decided to study physics and chemistry. Despite his headmaster’s advice to wait until the next year, Hawking was awarded a scholarship after taking the examinations in March 1959.
Hawking began his university education at University College, Oxford, in October 1959 at the age of 17. For the first eighteen months, he was bored and lonely – he found the academic work “ridiculously easy”. His physics tutor, Robert Berman, later said, “It was only necessary for him to know that something could be done, and he could do it without looking to see how other people did it.” A change occurred during his second and third years when, according to Berman, Hawking made more of an effort “to be one of the boys”. He developed into a popular, lively and witty college-member, interested in classical music and science fiction. Part of the transformation resulted from his decision to join the college boat-club, the University College Boat Club, where he coxed a rowing-crew. The rowing-coach at the time noted that Hawking cultivated a daredevil image, steering his crew on risky courses that led to damaged boats. Hawking estimated that he studied about 1,000 hours during his three years at Oxford. These unimpressive study habits made sitting his finals a challenge, and he decided to answer only theoretical physics questions rather than those requiring factual knowledge. A first-class degree was a condition of acceptance for his planned graduate study in cosmology at the University of Cambridge. Anxious, he slept poorly the night before the examinations, and the result was on the borderline between first- and second-class honours, making a viva (oral examination) with the Oxford examiners necessary.
Hawking was concerned that he was viewed as a lazy and difficult student. So, when asked at the viva to describe his plans, he said, “If you award me a First, I will go to Cambridge. If I receive a Second, I shall stay in Oxford, so I expect you will give me a First.” He was held in higher regard than he believed; as Berman commented, the examiners “were intelligent enough to realise they were talking to someone far cleverer than most of themselves”. After receiving a first-class BA degree in physics and completing a trip to Iran with a friend, he began his graduate work at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in October 1962.
Hawking’s first year as a doctoral student was difficult. He was initially disappointed to find that he had been assigned Dennis William Sciama, one of the founders of modern cosmology, as a supervisor rather than the noted astronomer Fred Hoyle, and he found his training in mathematics inadequate for work in general relativity and cosmology. After being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Hawking fell into a depression – though his doctors advised that he continue with his studies, he felt there was little point. His disease progressed more slowly than doctors had predicted. Although Hawking had difficulty walking unsupported, and his speech was almost unintelligible, an initial diagnosis that he had only two years to live proved unfounded. With Sciama’s encouragement, he returned to his work. Hawking started developing a reputation for brilliance and brashness when he publicly challenged the work of Fred Hoyle and his student Jayant Narlikar at a lecture in June 1964.
When Hawking began his doctoral studies, there was much debate in the physics community about the prevailing theories of the creation of the universe: the Big Bang and Steady State theories. Inspired by Roger Penrose’s theorem of a spacetime singularity in the centre of black holes, Hawking applied the same thinking to the entire universe; and, during 1965, he wrote his thesis on this topic. Hawking’s thesis was approved in 1966. There were other positive developments: Hawking received a research fellowship at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge; he obtained his PhD degree in applied mathematics and theoretical physics, specializing in general relativity and cosmology, in March 1966; and his essay “Singularities and the Geometry of Space–Time” shared top honours with one by Penrose to win that year’s prestigious Adams Prize.
In his work, and in collaboration with Penrose, Hawking extended the singularity theorem concepts first explored in his doctoral thesis. This included not only the existence of singularities but also the theory that the universe might have started as a singularity. Their joint essay was the runner-up in the 1968 Gravity Research Foundation competition. In 1970, they published a proof that if the universe obeys the general theory of relativity and fits any of the models of physical cosmology developed by Alexander Friedmann, then it must have begun as a singularity. In 1969, Hawking accepted a specially created Fellowship for Distinction in Science to remain at Caius. In 1970, Hawking postulated what became known as the second law of black hole dynamics, that the event horizon of a black hole can never get smaller. With James M. Bardeen and Brandon Carter, he proposed the four laws of black hole mechanics, drawing an analogy with thermodynamics To Hawking’s irritation, Jacob Bekenstein, a graduate student of John Wheeler, went further—and ultimately correctly—to apply thermodynamic concepts literally.
In the early 1970s, Hawking’s work with Carter, Werner Israel, and David C. Robinson strongly supported Wheeler’s no-hair theorem, one that states that no matter what the original material from which a black hole is created, it can be completely described by the properties of mass, electrical charge and rotation. His essay titled “Black Holes” won the Gravity Research Foundation Award in January 1971. Hawking’s first book, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, written with George Ellis, was published in 1973.
Beginning in 1973, Hawking moved into the study of quantum gravity and quantum mechanics. His work in this area was spurred by a visit to Moscow and discussions with Yakov Borisovich Zel’dovich and Alexei Starobinsky, whose work showed that according to the uncertainty principle, rotating black holes emit particles. To Hawking’s annoyance, his much-checked calculations produced findings that contradicted his second law, which claimed black holes could never get smaller, and supported Bekenstein’s reasoning about their entropy.
His results, which Hawking presented from 1974, showed that black holes emit radiation, known today as Hawking radiation, which may continue until they exhaust their energy and evaporate. Initially, Hawking radiation was controversial. By the late 1970s and following the publication of further research, the discovery was widely accepted as a significant breakthrough in theoretical physics. Hawking was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1974, a few weeks after the announcement of Hawking radiation. At the time, he was one of the youngest scientists to become a Fellow.
Hawking was appointed to the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Visiting Professorship at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1974. He worked with a friend on the faculty, Kip Thorne, and engaged him in a scientific wager about whether the X-ray source Cygnus X-1 was a black hole. The wager was an “insurance policy” against the proposition that black holes did not exist. Hawking acknowledged that he had lost the bet in 1990, a bet that was the first of several he was to make with Thorne and others. Hawking had maintained ties to Caltech, spending a month there almost every year since this first visit.
Hawking returned to Cambridge in 1975 to a more academically senior post, as reader in gravitational physics. The mid-to-late 1970s were a period of growing public interest in black holes and the physicists who were studying them. Hawking was regularly interviewed for print and television. He also received increasing academic recognition of his work. In 1975, he was awarded both the Eddington Medal and the Pius XI Gold Medal, and in 1976 the Dannie Heineman Prize, the Maxwell Medal and Prize and the Hughes Medal. He was appointed a professor with a chair in gravitational physics in 1977. The following year he received the Albert Einstein Medal and an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford.
In 1979, Hawking was elected Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. His inaugural lecture in this role was titled: “Is the End in Sight for Theoretical Physics?” and proposed N = 8 supergravity as the leading theory to solve many of the outstanding problems physicists were studying. His promotion coincided with a health-crisis which led to his accepting, albeit reluctantly, some nursing services at home. At the same time, he was also making a transition in his approach to physics, becoming more intuitive and speculative rather than insisting on mathematical proofs. “I would rather be right than rigorous”, he told Kip Thorne. In 1981, he proposed that information in a black hole is irretrievably lost when a black hole evaporates. This information paradox violates the fundamental tenet of quantum mechanics, and led to years of debate, including “the Black Hole War” with Leonard Susskind and Gerard ‘t Hooft.
Cosmological inflation – a theory proposing that following the Big Bang, the universe initially expanded incredibly rapidly before settling down to a slower expansion – was proposed by Alan Guth and also developed by Andrei Linde. Following a conference in Moscow in October 1981, Hawking and Gary Gibbons organized a three-week Nuffield Workshop in the summer of 1982 on “The Very Early Universe” at Cambridge University, a workshop that focused mainly on inflation theory. Hawking also began a new line of quantum-theory research into the origin of the universe. In 1981 at a Vatican conference, he presented work suggesting that there might be no boundary – or beginning or ending – to the universe.
Hawking subsequently developed the research in collaboration with Jim Hartle, and in 1983 they published a model, known as the Hartle–Hawking state. It proposed that prior to the Planck epoch, the universe had no boundary in space-time; before the Big Bang, time did not exist and the concept of the beginning of the universe is meaningless. The initial singularity of the classical Big Bang models was replaced with a region akin to the North Pole. One cannot travel north of the North Pole, but there is no boundary there – it is simply the point where all north-running lines meet and end. Initially, the no-boundary proposal predicted a closed universe, which had implications about the existence of God. As Hawking explained, “If the universe has no boundaries but is self-contained… then God would not have had any freedom to choose how the universe began.”
Hawking did not rule out the existence of a Creator, asking in A Brief History of Time “Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence?”, also stating “If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God”; in his early work, Hawking spoke of God in a metaphorical sense. In the same book he suggested that the existence of God was not necessary to explain the origin of the universe. Later discussions with Neil Turok led to the realization that the existence of God was also compatible with an open universe.
Further work by Hawking in the area of arrows of time led to the 1985 publication of a paper theorizing that if the no-boundary proposition were correct, then when the universe stopped expanding and eventually collapsed, time would run backwards. A paper by Don Page and independent calculations by Raymond Laflamme led Hawking to withdraw this concept. Honours continued to be awarded: in 1981 he was awarded the American Franklin Medal, and in the 1982 New Year Honors appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). These awards did not significantly change Hawking’s financial status, and motivated by the need to finance his children’s education and home-expenses, he decided in 1982 to write a popular book about the universe that would be accessible to the general public. Instead of publishing with an academic press, he signed a contract with Bantam Books, a mass-market publisher, and received a large advance for his book. A first draft of the book, called A Brief History of Time, was completed in 1984.
One of the first messages Hawking produced with his speech-generating device was a request for his assistant to help him finish writing A Brief History of Time. Peter Guzzardi, his editor at Bantam, pushed him to explain his ideas clearly in non-technical language, a process that required many revisions from an increasingly irritated Hawking. The book was published in April 1988 in the US and in June in the UK, and it proved to be an extraordinary success, rising quickly to the top of best-seller lists in both countries and remaining there for months. The book was translated into many languages, and as of 2009, has sold an estimated 9 million copies.
Media attention was intense, and a Newsweek magazine-cover and a television special both described him as “Master of the Universe”. Success led to significant financial rewards, but also the challenges of celebrity status. Hawking travelled extensively to promote his work, and enjoyed partying and dancing into the small hours. A difficulty refusing the invitations and visitors left him limited time for work and his students. Some colleagues were resentful of the attention Hawking received, feeling it was due to his disability.
He received further academic recognition, including five more honorary degrees, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1985), the Paul Dirac Medal (1987) and, jointly with Penrose, the prestigious Wolf Prize (1988). In the 1989 Birthday Honors, he was appointed a Companion of Honor (CH). He reportedly declined a knighthood in the late 1990s in objection to the UK’s science funding policy.
Hawking pursued his work in physics: in 1993 he co-edited a book on Euclidean quantum gravity with Gary Gibbons and published a collected edition of his own articles on black holes and the Big Bang. In 1994, at Cambridge’s Newton Institute, Hawking and Penrose delivered a series of six lectures that were published in 1996 as “The Nature of Space and Time”. In 1997, he conceded a 1991 public scientific wager made with Kip Thorne and John Preskill of Caltech. Hawking had bet that Penrose’s proposal of a “cosmic censorship conjecture” – that there could be no “naked singularities” unclothed within a horizon – was correct.
After discovering his concession might have been premature, a new and more refined wager was made. This one specified that such singularities would occur without extra conditions. The same year, Thorne, Hawking and Preskill made another bet, this time concerning the black hole information paradox. Thorne and Hawking argued that since general relativity made it impossible for black holes to radiate and lose information, the mass-energy and information carried by Hawking radiation must be “new”, and not from inside the black hole event horizon. Since this contradicted the quantum mechanics of microcausality, quantum mechanics theory would need to be rewritten. Preskill argued the opposite, that since quantum mechanics suggests that the information emitted by a black hole relates to information that fell in at an earlier time, the concept of black holes given by general relativity must be modified in some way.
Hawking also maintained his public profile, including bringing science to a wider audience. A film version of A Brief History of Time, directed by Errol Morris and produced by Steven Spielberg, premiered in 1992. Hawking had wanted the film to be scientific rather than biographical, but he was persuaded otherwise. The film, while a critical success, was not widely released. A popular-level collection of essays, interviews, and talks titled Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays was published in 1993, and a six-part television series Stephen Hawking’s Universe and a companion book appeared in 1997. As Hawking insisted, this time the focus was entirely on science.
Hawking continued his writings for a popular audience, publishing The Universe in a Nutshell in 2001, and A Briefer History of Time, which he wrote in 2005 with Leonard Mlodinow to update his earlier works with the aim of making them accessible to a wider audience, and God Created the Integers, which appeared in 2006. Along with Thomas Hertog at CERN and Jim Hartle, from 2006 on Hawking developed a theory of top-down cosmology, which says that the universe had not one unique initial state but many different ones, and therefore that it is inappropriate to formulate a theory that predicts the universe’s current configuration from one particular initial state. Top-down cosmology posits that the present “selects” the past from a superposition of many possible histories. In doing so, the theory suggests a possible resolution of the fine-tuning question.
Hawking continued to travel widely, including trips to Chile, Easter Island, South Africa, Spain (to receive the Fonseca Prize in 2008), Canada, and numerous trips to the United States. For practical reasons related to his disability, Hawking increasingly travelled by private jet, and by 2011 that had become his only mode of international travel. By 2003, consensus among physicists was growing that Hawking was wrong about the loss of information in a black hole. In a 2004 lecture in Dublin, he conceded his 1997 bet with Preskill, but described his own, somewhat controversial solution to the information paradox problem, involving the possibility that black holes have more than one topology. In the 2005 paper he published on the subject, he argued that the information paradox was explained by examining all the alternative histories of universes, with the information loss in those with black holes being cancelled out by those without such loss. In January 2014, he called the alleged loss of information in black holes his “biggest blunder”.
As part of another longstanding scientific dispute, Hawking had emphatically argued, and bet, that the Higgs boson would never be found. The particle was proposed to exist as part of the Higgs field theory by Peter Higgs in 1964. Hawking and Higgs engaged in a heated and public debate over the matter in 2002 and again in 2008, with Higgs criticizing Hawking’s work and complaining that Hawking’s “celebrity status gives him instant credibility that others do not have.” The particle was discovered in July 2012 at CERN following construction of the Large Hadron Collider. Hawking quickly conceded that he had lost his bet and said that Higgs should win the Nobel Prize for Physics, which he did in 2013.
In 2007, Hawking and his daughter Lucy published George’s Secret Key to the Universe, a children’s book designed to explain theoretical physics in an accessible fashion and featuring characters similar to those in the Hawking family. The book was followed by sequels in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016. In 2002, following a UK-wide vote, the BBC included Hawking in their list of the 100 Greatest Britons. He was awarded the Copley Medal from the Royal Society (2006), the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is America’s highest civilian honour (2009), and the Russian Special Fundamental Physics Prize (2013).
Several buildings have been named after him, including the Stephen W. Hawking Science Museum in San Salvador, El Salvador, the Stephen Hawking Building in Cambridge, and the Stephen Hawking Centre at the Perimeter Institute in Canada. Appropriately, given Hawking’s association with time, he unveiled the mechanical “Chronophage” (or time-eating) Corpus Clock at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge in September 2008. During his career, Hawking supervised 39 successful PhD students. One doctoral student did not successfully complete the PhD. better source needed] As required by Cambridge University policy, Hawking retired as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 2009. Despite suggestions that he might leave the United Kingdom as a protest against public funding cuts to basic scientific research, Hawking worked as director of research at the Cambridge University Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics.
On 28 June 2009, as a tongue-in-cheek test of his 1992 conjecture that travel into the past is effectively impossible, Hawking held a party open to all, complete with hors d’oeuvres and iced champagne, but publicized the party only after it was over so that only time-travellers would know to attend; as expected, nobody showed up to the party.
On 20 July 2015, Hawking helped launch Breakthrough Initiatives, an effort to search for extraterrestrial life. Hawking created Stephen Hawking: Expedition New Earth, a documentary on space colonization, as a 2017 episode of Tomorrow’s World.
In August 2015, Hawking said that not all information is lost when something enters a black hole and there might be a possibility to retrieve information from a black hole according to his theory. In July 2017, Hawking was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Imperial College London.
Hawking’s final paper – A smooth exit from eternal inflation? – was posthumously published in the Journal of High Energy Physics on 27 April 2018.
Hawking died at his home in Cambridge on 14 March 2018, at the age of 76. His family stated that he “died peacefully”. He was eulogized by figures in science, entertainment, politics, and other areas. The Gonville and Caius College flag flew at half-mast and a book of condolences was signed by students and visitors. A tribute was made to Hawking in the closing speech by IPC President Andrew Parsons at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
His private funeral took place on 31 March 2018, at Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge. Guests at the funeral included The Theory of Everything actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May, and model Lily Cole. In addition, actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Stephen Hawking in Hawking, astronaut Tim Peake, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and physicist Kip Thorne provided readings at the service. Although Hawking was an atheist, the funeral took place with a traditional Anglican service. Following the cremation, a service of thanksgiving was held at Westminster Abbey on 15 June 2018, after which his ashes were interred in the Abbey’s nave, between the graves of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Inscribed on his memorial stone are the words “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking 1942–2018” and his most famed equation. He directed, at least fifteen years before his death, that the Bekenstein–Hawking entropy equation be his epitaph. In June 2018, it was announced that Hawking’s words, set to music by Greek composer Vangelis, would be beamed into space from a European space agency satellite dish in Spain with the aim of reaching the nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00.
Hawking’s final broadcast interview, about the detection of gravitational waves resulting from the collision of two neutron stars, occurred in October 2017. His final words to the world appeared posthumously, in April 2018, in the form of a Smithsonian TV Channel documentary entitled, Leaving Earth: Or How to Colonize a Planet. One of his final research studies, entitled A smooth exit from eternal inflation?, about the origin of the universe, was published in the Journal of High Energy Physics in May 2018. Later, in October 2018, another of his final research studies, entitled Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair, was published, and dealt with the “mystery of what happens to the information held by objects once they disappear into a black hole”. Also in October 2018, Hawking’s last book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, a popular science book presenting his final comments on the most important questions facing humankind, was published.
On 8 November 2018, an auction of 22 personal possessions of Stephen Hawking, including his doctoral thesis (“Properties of Expanding Universes”, PhD thesis, Cambridge University, 1965) and wheelchair, took place, and fetched about £1.8 m. Proceeds from the auction sale of the wheelchair went to two charities, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Stephen Hawking Foundation; proceeds from Hawking’s other items went to his estate.
In March 2019, it was announced that the Royal Mint would issue a commemorative 50p coin, only available as a commemorative edition, in honour of Hawking. The same month, Hawking’s nurse, Patricia Dowdy, was struck off the nursing register for “failures over his care and financial misconduct.”
In May 2021 it was announced that an Acceptance-in-Lieu agreement between HMRC, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Cambridge University Library, Science Museum Group, and the Hawking Estate, would see around 10,000 pages of Hawking’s scientific and other papers remain in Cambridge, while objects including his wheelchairs, speech synthesisers, and personal memorabilia from his former Cambridge office would be housed at the Science Museum. In February 2022 the “Stephen Hawking at Work” display opened at the Science Museum, London as the start of a two-year nationwide tour.
Awards and honours
Hawking received numerous awards and honours. Already early in the list, in 1974 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). At that time, his nomination read:
Hawking has made major contributions to the field of general relativity. These derive from a deep understanding of what is relevant to physics and astronomy, and especially from a mastery of wholly new mathematical techniques. Following the pioneering work of Penrose he established, partly alone and partly in collaboration with Penrose, a series of successively stronger theorems establishing the fundamental result that all realistic cosmological models must possess singularities. Using similar techniques, Hawking has proved the basic theorems on the laws governing black holes: that stationary solutions of Einstein’s equations with smooth event horizons must necessarily be axisymmetric; and that in the evolution and interaction of black holes, the total surface area of the event horizons must increase. In collaboration with G. Ellis, Hawking is the author of an impressive and original treatise on “Space-time in the Large”.
The citation continues, “Other important work by Hawking relates to the interpretation of cosmological observations and to the design of gravitational wave detectors.”
Hawking was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1984), the American Philosophical Society (1984), and the United States National Academy of Sciences (1992).
Hawking received the 2015 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Basic Sciences shared with Viatcheslav Mukhanov for discovering that the galaxies were formed from quantum fluctuations in the early Universe. At the 2016 Pride of Britain Awards, Hawking received the lifetime achievement award “for his contribution to science and British culture”. After receiving the award from Prime Minister Theresa May, Hawking humorously requested that she not seek his help with Brexit.
Medal for Science Communication
Main article: Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication
Hawking was a member of the advisory board of the Starmus Festival, and had a major role in acknowledging and promoting science communication. The Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication is an annual award initiated in 2016 to honour members of the arts community for contributions that help build awareness of science. Recipients receive a medal bearing a portrait of Hawking by Alexei Leonov, and the other side represents an image of Leonov himself performing the first spacewalk along with an image of the “Red Special”, the guitar of Queen musician and astrophysicist Brian May (with music being another major component of the Starmus Festival).
The Starmus III Festival in 2016 was a tribute to Stephen Hawking and the book of all Starmus III lectures, “Beyond the Horizon”, was also dedicated to him. The first recipients of the medals, which were awarded at the festival, were chosen by Hawking himself. They were composer Hans Zimmer, physicist Jim Al-Khalili, and the science documentary Particle Fever.
A Brief History of Time (1988).
Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993).
The Universe in a Nutshell (2001).
On the Shoulders of Giants (2002).
God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History (2005).
The Dreams That Stuff Is Made of: The Most Astounding Papers of Quantum Physics and How They Shook the Scientific World (2011).
My Brief History (2013) Hawking’s memoir.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions (2018).
The Nature of Space and Time (with Roger Penrose) (1996).
The Large, the Small and the Human Mind (with Roger Penrose, Abner Shimony and Nancy Cartwright) (1997).
The Future of Spacetime (with Kip Thorne, Igor Novikov, Timothy Ferris and introduction by Alan Lightman, Richard H. Price) (2002).
A Briefer History of Time (with Leonard Mlodinow) (2005).
The Grand Design (with Leonard Mlodinow) (2010).
Black Holes & Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy (Kip Thorne, and introduction by Frederick Seitz) (1994).
The Physics of Star Trek (Lawrence Krauss) (1995).